Successful women are a testament to the strength and will to overcome challenges. Running a successful business is even more impressive when you add in balancing the roles of significant other, caregiving for parents or children, being a volunteer, boss, and friend. Now, imagine being a successful woman who balances these roles and has had to overcome trauma – even more incredible, right? As it turns out, it’s really no surprise – that’s because there is a link between trauma and high-achievement.

I see it every day in the clients we work with, and a recent study of “super achievers” found that 75% of participants had overcome traumatic experiences like childhood abuse or living in poverty.* The coping mechanisms we learn in survival – healthy and unhealthy – can lend themselves to achievement. Understanding this connection means we can keep those positive skills while identifying and adjusting the unsustainable habits that take their toll over time.

Understanding Trauma

Trauma is an emotional wound caused by a stressful or frightening experience or events that feel difficult to cope with. Traumatic experiences can cause substantial, lasting psychological damage, often resulting in an overwhelming sense of despair, helplessness, vulnerability, or the need to control one’s environment.

Its origins are diverse, stemming from personal experiences like loss, abuse, catastrophic events, and systemic issues like discrimination, addiction, poverty, and violence. The psychological aftermath of trauma can significantly negatively impact an individual’s emotional and mental health. However, these experiences also have the potential to catalyze profound personal growth and motivation, hence the link between trauma and high-achievement.

The Nature of High-Achievement

High-achievement is characterized not just by the attainment of goals but by the relentless pursuit of excellence and the resilience to overcome obstacles. High achievers possess a unique blend of perseverance, ambition, and self-efficacy. However, as a society, we emphasize outcomes and results over our journeys and experiences. In this context, high achievers are encouraged to “push through” at any expense. They may not realize that they are engaging in unhealthy physical and emotional habits or that there is a healthy and more fulfilling way to meet their goals.

The Shadow Side of Success

While the link between trauma and high-achievement can fuel remarkable success stories, it’s essential to acknowledge the potential downsides. Women who have survived trauma have often done so by repressing their emotions, compartmentalizing stress, isolating, or may have an extreme need for control or developing eating disorders or addictions. The relentless pursuit of success, driven by unresolved trauma, can lead to burnout, perfectionism, and neglecting mental, emotional, and physical health. A trauma-informed approach at Always This Good means our team is trained to recognize and address the root causes of our clients’ drive and behaviors, allowing us to support their post-traumatic growth.

Navigating Towards Post-Traumatic Growth

Post-traumatic growth represents the positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and challenges. It means healing and moving beyond survival to flourishing and turning trauma into a source of strength. This process involves recognizing unhealthy patterns, seeking support, and embracing practices that promote mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

More specifically, as high-achieving women entrepreneurs and executives, post-traumatic growth also means:

  • recognizing the difference between judging ourselves or others and using discernment
  • engaging in self-care before burnout
  • tuning into our intuition or gut hunches in personal and professional relationships
  • getting clear on what we really want vs. what others expect of us
  • managing perfectionism and controlling behaviors
  • finding a heightened sense of purpose and fulfillment in our work
  • putting ourselves first
  • celebrating all we’ve overcome thanks to our resilience and determination

Conclusion

Women leaders are resilient and can transform adversity into an engine for success. But it’s critical to remember the importance of a balanced approach that honors our achievements and well-being. Are you ready to harness your experiences for growth and success while maintaining harmony in all aspects of your life? Let us support you on this transformative journey. This is just one of the reasons we created The Advisory peer group for women entrepreneurs and executives. If you’re ready to give and receive support within a community of peers who truly understand your experience, challenges, and ambitions, join us.

*https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/75-percent-of-super-high-achievers-come-from-troubled-families-heres-why.html